Thursday, August 26, 2010

We go back:)

In the whitewashed world that exists in the spring, you do not sign your kids up for camp the last week of summer because you will be doing the following idyllic activities:

1. Shopping for school supplies together, while talking about the symbolism of various notebooks and which colors best represent divergent personalities.
2. Hitting the lake, beach, trail one last time for a nostalgic ritualized end-of-the-summer visit.
3. Cleaning out desks, writing out schedules, and getting the house organized for the beginning of 27 fall activities.
4. Weeding out the garden and admiring the burgeoning pumpkins which will adorn your front porch in a few short weeks.
5. Bike riding on the rail trail.

In my mind, these things happen at the end of every summer. I am now writing this post to remind myself that is not how it looks more like this:

1. Forecast for 4 days straight: rain, rain, and more rain. No beach, no lake, and hiking if you want to carry one of your wet children who, within 20 minutes, slips off your shoulders like an arctic seal.

2. Any trip to any store for any supply ends in this threat "if you guys don't stop arguing, I'm leaving the cart here and we are going." Oldest now realizes this is a hollow threat and has developed a grin that conveys that knowledge.

3. Great dramatic hand-wringing when mom attempts to throw away any piece of paper from the last two years of school. This archaeological viewpoint impedes getting the desk cleared off. Mom realizes she will have to sweep in when kids have returned to school.

4. Garden looks like it has been blitzed. Pumpkin buds have been eaten by burrowing creature, tomatoes demolished by bugs, and squash attacked by ninja warrior animals. Not watering or weeding for past month might have contributed to devastation.

5. The rail trail? Again? Family threatens to go on strike. Let's arm wrestle for who gets to go on strike. Really, I can take you all.

It is time. Summer is swell, it really is but it is time.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Story of Stuff

I just finished reading "The Story of Stuff" by Annie Leonard. My family will be getting this book for Christmas and I hope the rest of you take a look at this video (thanks for sending it on Michelle).

There are moments when you read something or think about something and it rings true in a calm and devastating fashion. We are giving away our planet in service of more and more disposable goods and it is not going to be an issue for our grand kids, it is going to be an issue for our kids. As parents, we are right to be concerned about our children's development as spiritual, intellectual, and physical entities. All that care and consideration will be for naught if there is no healthy place or way for them to flourish.

I am an offender in many, many ways, as are we all. I pledge to start somewhere, anywhere and give up the luxury of being overwhelmed, and thus doing nothing. Please take a look at the video or borrow the book from your local library. I think we want to do right and need each other to cheer us on down the road of less consumption.

One great website from the book is You can plug in any of your household products and see how they are rated vis-a-vis toxic chemicals and impacting the environment. A good place to start!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Dissection of an Evening

I have admitted that I am a group floozy but upon further reflection, I think I have mined some insights into why that might be. Last night, after a month off, our Chicks With Sticks group gathered and secondarily made some progress on our knitting and crocheting. Of more importance and why groups are so danged much fun, we did the following:

1. Got away from our homes and the nagging sense that there is always something to take care of there....laundry, dishes, re-financing talk. Enough. I believe my last words out the door were "I have no idea when I will be home, could be tomorrow" (sorry to our hostess who did not escape her home but did create such luxury for us....

2. Drank grown-up drinks in beautiful glasses with exotic components like pineapple juice and whipped cream. Used cloth napkins on our very own faces.

3. Networked with one another and got to hear about a fabulous job one member earned with her journalistic prowess. I realized at some point that men do this all the time, get together and talk about work and how they can help each other out.

4. I would be remiss if I did not mention that at the end of the evening, we did figure out what our porn names are: name of first pet and street you grew up on...mine is Tiger Oxford. I will not tell tales but some names will be remembered forever:)

What a beautiful thing it is to get together as women and nurture the kind of energy that women bring to the table; some of it serious and some of it absurd. I cherish my women friends and anytime any of them want to meet to knit, read, paint, garden, fund raise, bike, hike, run, or just laugh until we can't breathe, well, I'm in.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

What matters

I have found that there are, literally, thousands of things that are more fun to do than strip your front porch. Weed the driveway, clean out closets, go to the local art museum. With so many dazzling choices, I went with the art museum option. My good friend and I have been talking about doing this for several years. Last time we tried, the museum closed 15 minutes after we arrived. The porch can end of the summer mantra:)

We decided to visit the room entitled "Changing Exhibits" first, as it seemed so fleeting. At the risk of giving away too much, this is absolutely not a bad thing. As you walk into the gallery, your eyes are drawn to a big pine box in the middle of the room. Upon reflection, the viewer sees a few tufts of hay sticking out of a small hole (about orange circumference) drilled into the box. Eureka, this is a pine box covering a bale of hay. Hay that we would not have known existed, except that the artist drilled a hole, albeit a tiny hole in the box. Here we go.....Worcester Art Museum - What Matters

Next, your eyes are drawn toward a shelf on the wall. On that shelf, are several painted bricks. Ah, the starkness of the human condition or maybe the fecundity of the human condition, hard to say.

In the corner of the room, leaning against the white wall, was a fur-covered hula-hoop. (actually a steel hoop) Artist out of Glasgow, using a reclaimed ermine stole. I don't know if the hula-hoop was reclaimed. Here is where I fall into the wormhole: How does one define art? Is it a thing of beauty that allows one to transcend boundaries? Or is it a piece that allows you to have a conversation with yourself? The fuzzy hula-hoop allowed me a greater appreciation of the Rembrandt I saw down the hall. I daresay I will still be talking about the fuzzy hula-hoop on down the road. I fear I may have been hoodwinked by a wily Scottish artist into a slight appreciation of modern art.

I know my tastes are not sophisticated and with some time and effort, I could come to appreciate the post-modern angst represented by the installation I saw today. I admire the courage of an artist who hangs plastic bottles from the ceiling and demands that we see beyond the fact that if I stole this work of art, it could be replaced out of the recycling bin. Modern art forces you to transcend your own aesthetic, but here is the thing... I like my aesthetic. It runs to the Dutch painters, especially the frozen winter scenes. I'm a fan of anything cold, dark, gray, and forlorn. Van Gogh's sunflowers don't do it for me but Picasso's blue period is riveting.

So, just like literature, love, music, and is personal. I am not a student or fan of modern art but I admire every artist making art. So rock on with your fuzzy hula-hoops and your painted bricks. Art matters.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Owning an Old House

I'm taking a little break from stripping the front porch to write about stripping the front porch. Suddenly, it becomes clear to me why people love to write, it is cooler and works different muscles.

The home we live in was built in 1889 and you can tell that immediately. Not because of the quaint architecture but because some part of the house is peeling, at all times. I had no idea what owning an old house meant, I just knew that I was drawn to the energy and sense of history that older homes exude. The minute I walked into our house, my gut told me that we would be here as long as we lived in New England. My husband's gut told him the same thing, because very few people would buy a house this old. So here we are, falling behind more and more each year.
In the beginning years, we did basic work: new heater, new roof, new windows (the old ones were circa early 1900s and they made a very cool rattling sound, before the rain and snow came in). We had the floors redone and put in new sinks in the bathrooms. We had no money or time for aesthetic work so our butterfly wallpaper and yellow toilet are still hanging tough in the downstairs bathroom.
That is the thing with an old house, you are running uphill to keep your house from sliding downhill...did I mention we need some foundation work done? Last summer, it was replacing our old picket fence and this summer, everything needs to be painted. Inside and outside.
Still, we have an acre to play on and I can garden until the cows come home...the state of my garden is a post for another time but we have had a couple of tomatoes and cukes and plenty of herbs. Our pumpkins are the real showstoppers and I put my faith in them. I don't ever sweat it when kids are romping through because the house was made for messiness and clutter and worn-in-ness.
Our realtor told us this house used to be a chapel. I can feel the holiness in trying to keep things going. Each project has it's moments of loss of faith, repentance, and redemption. All we can do is be fully present in the middle of the chaos...and that, my friends, I can do.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

August Blues

It has been hot here in New England and anything over 80 is considered a heatwave, which causes the town to promptly issue an outdoor water ban. This, in turn, leads to a droopy landscape. Upon reflection, this is the perfect backdrop to August, especially after a week of Camp Mommy.

I marvel at the fact that I have no patience for children, and yet I have two and work in a middle school. I think I have patience for wounded children and angry children but not middle-class entitled children. Lately, I have been quoting Karl Marx and "unwaged labor"....a title I think is quite applicable to parents. I am whitewashing the past, thinking about how my sister and I happily did a day of chores for the betterment of the family community, and how we got along splendidly.

August is rough. There is a fine balance between too many camps and structured activities and not enough. Siblings have spent the summer honing their ability to supremely irritate one another and by August, well, I think it is nothing short of an art form. Underneath it all is the buzzing irritation of my own perceived reverence for my elders and for my sibling relationship. In my memory, I was never disrespectful or fresh. And yet......

How about the time I whispered into the air vent "I hate you Mom" at my grandmother's house and stopped Sunday dinner cold?

How about the time I talked my sister into running me over with a bike and then framed her when my parents ran out to see what all the screaming was about?

How about the time I figured out that I could outrun my dad (he walked on crutches) and told him so? His calm will eventually have to come home...

How about the time I took one of every shoe I owned to high school in a duffel bag so my sister could not borrow a pair of my shoes?

Every parent feels that karma resides in their grandchildren, and I think they may be right. At any rate, I'm feeling a little less blue thinking about what a little s---- I was, because look how I turned out. There is hope for my kids:)

Thursday, August 5, 2010


I have been thinking a bit about the idea of integrity. It all started with this video:

I got an email from a group that pointed out Target is sponsoring a candidate in Minnesota that supports anti-gay sentiments. I consider myself to be a bit of a Target addict, the red is so cheerful and they have very cool bags that you can make other very cool stuff out of like braided rugs. I shop there weekly for one thing or another. Still, 150,000 to a man who believes that gay and lesbian folks should be actively discriminated against? This is an issue of justice and when you know about something, you have a choice of what to do.

We go along pretending that big corporations are OK, that some are better than others when in fact, they are quite similar. Target helped put the 5 and 10 store out of business just as readily as WalMart did. How can we get back to making more mindful choices as consumers? One purchase at a time. We are headed to a local family-run bike store to get Emma's bike (our next Target purchase). We should have gone there to begin with but the colorful bags and inexpensive goods at Target lured me away from making a choice with integrity. I am going to work hard to get back there.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Group Floozy

I just got an email to join a Rogue Book Club. I feel a bit sheepish because I am already a member of a great book club but the thing is, I never met a group I didn't want to get to know a bit better. Even if I don't actually do the thing the group is doing, like scrap booking or tole painting or Tai Chi. Of course, after you join, you end up doing the thing, sometimes for a good long time. My affairs with groups have started me down the path of Buddhism, meditation, yoga, and hindeloopen (dutch folk painting).

I am currently a member of two book groups, one knitting group, and one scrapbooking group. I am contemplating joining a hiking group, a training group for triathletes, and an artist group. I am in full support of local plans to start a women's mediation center and a local art and cultural center. It is an orgy of connection.

Stay open. Connect. Flirt with all of life's possibilities. In the end, come home to your partner and family with renewed energy and a twinkle in your eye. Who knows, you might talk them into a night of dutch folk painting:)